Happy 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday everyone! After 10 years and £200m, the Saville Inquiry concluded that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing.
There's a famous picture of a priest waving a hanky over a bloody victim on Bloody Sunday. He became a bishop. Then he retired and wrote a book. He said that getting soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians was a bad thing as well.
I knew a Christian couple in Northern Ireland. They weren't Catholic or Protestant, just Christian. They used to talk to both Nationalists and Unionists. We don't call them Catholics or Protestants, that might suggest that there was some sort of religious element to the troubles, which is absurd. Anyway, this young, indeterminate denomination couple used to talk to people of both
This is how the message of Jesus, the message of peace, was finally brought to Northern Ireland and how religion finally solved that troubled province's purely political troubles.
By coincidence this is also the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. He was religious too in a totally non-specific sort of way. He believed in peace, despite the fact that he didn't think that Jesus was the Invisible Magic Friend, which is remarkable really. Fortunately, the assassins of this man of peace were caught and executed.
So you see, peace is actually a very good thing. Any Syrian dictators who are listening to this, this morning, just might want to bear that in mind.
Happy Year of the Dragon everyone!
This is a time for gifts and family and happiness and optimism. Children born this year will be wealthy and wise and so the Chinese will have many more babies this year.
In Chinese mythology (and let us not forget, it is just a rather quaint mythology) the dragon is not a fire breathing monster with a diet consisting largely of virgins, the dragon is is an ancient protector of the poor.
We all need a protector of some sort, a comfort blanket, something to hold onto when we feel alone and afraid in the big scary world, something greater than us who'll be able to deal with the misfortunes that life may throw at us.
Here in Durham we've been singing Christmas carols. Yes, there's only 49 weeks to go until Christmas. Unlike the silly Chinese with their imaginary dragons, we have the real saviour of the world, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend.
The book Religion for Atheists (available from all good book-stores and a certain well known online retailer) points out all the good things that religion does while dismissing all the silly superstitious bits. What the author fails to realise is that we need the silly superstitious bits, whether it's dragons or the baby Jesus.
Happy Blue Monday everyone!
But I know that well educated Radio 4 listeners don't believe in pseudo-scientific nonsense like that. How about some astronomy on the telly. Isn't the universe just amazing? It's so big. Do you know who I think of when I see how big the universe is? Go on, guess. No, you'll never get it, it's the Invisible Magic Friend!
Science-and-faith both think the universe is amazing. A 3,000 year old poet agrees with me. "Oh, everything is sooooo BIG. Thank you, thank you, Invisible Magic Friend, for making all this just for me!"
Christians, with their hearsay evidence written down 30 years after the totally amazing resurrection, are just like astronomers. Science-and-faith are always saying how big it all is. Lovell called it "immensity", with is a bigger word for "big" and so makes it sound as if I'm saying something different and not just constantly repeating myself. He mentioned the Invisible Magic Friend too which further legitimises science-and-faith.
Science-and-faith can't answer everything of course, but still science-and-faith both say everything is very, very, very big. This makes science-and-faith very exciting as both agree about the overall bigness of it all. So I'll be cheering myself up by looking at some stars, confident that science-and-faith both say how very big it all is.
Did I mention that science-and-faith say how
So Dame Vivienne Westwood has been addressing the anti-capitalist protesters outside Saint Paul's on the emptiness of consumerism. And so I stood around watching the Durham Lumiere Festival. There were lots of bright, happy colours, lighting up the town and especially the cathedral.
And so it begins, the Cathedral was adorned by pictures of the Lindisfarne Gospels. These unique Gospels were produced at enormous expense. Going forward, they were definitely the designer Gospels of their day and highly desirable artefacts in their own right - no hint of abject consumerism or the ostentatious display of wealth there.
Do you know who all this reminds me of? Go on, have a guess. No, I knew you wouldn't get it. OK, I'll put you out of your misery, it was Jesus! Yes, that's right, Jesus, the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend! Jesus is like light, a great big multi-coloured neon display of tubular light, who now reigns supreme in the great fluorescent bulb showroom in the sky.
So science and religion don't have all the answers. (I put them together because they don't have all the answers in roughly equal amounts.) And so there's no art any more, For Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine, except in Durham, where we have 1,300 year old Gospels projected onto the Cathedral walls - that's art.
The OPERA experiment at CERN seems to have detected neutrinos travelling slightly faster than the speed of light. If true then this will overturn one of the foundations of physics, Einstein's Theory of Relativity. One physicist has even promised to eat his boxer shorts live on TV if it turns out to be true.
But this is how science works. We perform experiments, gather data, consolidate the data using theory, make predictions and do the whole cycle over and over again. Theory is developed using skill, judgement and intuition. Which is exactly like faith, isn't it? Michael Polanyi as good as said so. He was a Christian you know?
So what about the Invisible Magic Friend? Well, science is no good at telling you about the Invisible Magic Friend because he's invisible and magic. Theologians explore invisible magic things in exactly the same way as scientists do with visible not-magic things, apart from not doing experiments, not collecting data, not having to restrict our theories to being consistent with the data (because there isn't any), but in every other respect it's exactly the same.
The planet Kepler 16b orbits two suns, just like George Lucas predicted in Star Wars. It makes you wonder whether there's intellegient life somewhere up in space.
Hundreds of extra-solar planets have been found now, many be the Kepler space telescope. When their atmospheres have been examined we'll be able to tell whether some of them might support life. What effect will this have on religion?
Absolutely none is the answer. We'll go on saying exactly the same stuff as we've always done. You see, the Invisible Magic Friend didn't make the universe just for our benefit. Christians don't believe that. No Christian has ever said that. The Christian Church has always believed in extra-solar planets and has always been very nice to anyone who wanted to talk about them.
You can trust me on this. I started out as an astrophysicist you know, before abandoning it for the far more interesting career as a theologian. Kepler was a Christian himself, which just goes to show how right Christianity must be, although he also believed in astrology, which is wrong, so you can ignore that belief.
Monday, 5 September, 2011, 08:41 AM - WilkinsonRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's coming up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It's important to hear the individual stories of all the thousands who died on that day and in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, although it's very unlikely you'll hear many personal stories from the victims of the wars.
There are also personal stories from the people affected by the recent riots. Their personal stories are important too.
This is where the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend is so important. You see the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend really cares. He listens to everybody's problems and them mostly ignores them.
As the psalmist said, "Oh Invisible Magic Friend, hear what a rotten time I'm having." And then in another psalm, "I'm sure you were listening before, but I still seem to be having a rather rotten time. You really are just fantastic you know." Then in yet another psalm, "OK, I know you're really busy, but if you could just help a little bit with the really rotten time I'm having. Praise be to you, you're wonderful, you really are, I'm not just saying that."
Jesus, the visible bit of the Judeo-Christian Invisible Magic Friend, spent lots and lots of time listening. It just so happens that the New Tasty mint mostly describes the time that he spent talking.
The personal stories of the victims of apartheid are really important. Lots of Christian South Africans listened to their really important stories, just like Jesus.
So if you get the chance this week, listen to the personal stories of the 9/11 victims.
And in the news headlines today, it's Durham University open day! Happy Durham University open day everyone! If you're a prospective university student, with all those lovely fees to spend, why not come along to Durham University open day and learn all about Durham University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country. Only a few shorts years from now you'll be receiving your degree in the splendid surroundings of the magnificent Durham Cathedral, a privilege unique to Durham University - shaped by the past, creating the future.
If you're wondering, why go to university? What are universities for? Well, universities used to be about being more Christian. But don't worry if you're not into all that, if that isn't you're "thing", because here at Durham University, whose open day is today and to which you are all most welcome, we teach and do research in the full range of both academic and vocational subjects. Here at Durham University, we equip you to meet the future, whatever your chosen field.
Centrally located, with its intimate collegiate nature yet cosmopolitan outlook, Durham University is the university that Jesus would have chosen. Like Jesus, Durham University, is concerned with developing the whole you. We'll see to it that you turn out properly spiritual as well as properly educated. As one of our low paid cleaning staff said, "These kids are the future."
So why not come to Durham University - an eminent source for good.
It's World Refugee Day today. Across the world, tens of millions of people remain displaced from their homeland. Whether, it's Syria, Palestine, Somalia or Afghanistan, refugees often live in appalling conditions, threatening their health and their lives.
The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us to be nice to foreigners. Obviously you can't marry them, eat their food, or worship their gods, and if they happen to be currently occupying your promised land, well they'll clearly have to be exterminated, but otherwise you should be nice to foreigners.
We're reading one of the nice books of the Big Book of Magic Stuff, where an Israelite goes abroad and does marry a foreigner, but she's OK as she decides to worship the Jewish Invisible Magic Friend. When her husband dies, she returns to Israel where she has to find a male relative of her husband in order to retain his land as ordained by the Invisible Magic Friend's real estate law. So you see, she's a kind of refugee, isn't she, and the people in the Big Book of Magic Stuff were nice to her, so you should be too.
I met some refugees once. It was 30 years ago and two families of Vietnamese boat people were given houses by the local council. It was very controversial. As Christians, we welcomed them anyway, although that didn't go so far as eating all their foreign food.
So there you go. The Big Book of Magic Stuff says be (mostly) nice to refugees and some Christians I knew (mostly) were once. It's probably a good thing to be (mostly) nice to refugees.
Today, the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation will ask for £2.3billion to help save the lives of 4 million children a year.
This is science doing good things, but what is science really for? Francis Bacon thought it was to give us power over nature, but Bacon also thought it could be used to relieve suffering. That's because he was a Christian. If he hadn't been a Christian he probably wouldn't have bothered with the second bit. Thankfully he was a Christian, and could be bothered with the second bit, and that's why many scientists today want to do good things.
Science is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend. I love science. That's why I gave it up to do theology. The Big Book of Magic Stuff is just full of tips on using inductive reasoning, experimental method, empirical verification of theory, and falsifiability, with its inspirational commands like, "Don't eat from the tree of knowledge or you'll all die." Jesus himself spent a great deal of his time healing people. Pay no attention to that woman the other week who said healing the sick was just a hobby for Jesus. It was really important.
As Jesus said over and over again, "I can't emphasise enough the importance of the scientific method. All ideas, no matter how much authority their authors claim, must be continually tested and verified. This is really important people. You won't believe what you'll be able to do if you just embrace this one simple notion."
So, as you see, science was invented by the Invisible Magic Friend because he is so compassionate that he wanted us to find cures for all the diseases he'd invented. For various reasons he just didn't want to give it to us for the first few thousand years.